Stop Assuming Black People are Criminals

The list of examples is embarrassingly long, embarrassing to the white people — too many of us, obviously — who automatically assume that any black person, especially any black man, must be engaged in criminal activity.

Rarely, but sometimes, these incidents turn out relatively satisfyingly, as when a jury recently found a white man guilty of assault for firing on a black teen who had knocked on the door of his house because he wanted directions to the high school, having missed the bus. There is nothing particularly satisfying about seeing a man spend time in prison essentially for being a complete idiot, but if we have to live in a society where some people shoot at teens for knocking on doors, only when the shooter is white and the teen is black, it is satisfying to see the incident arrive at a resolution in which no one died and the stupid white person gets some punishment for endangering the life of another person for no reason at all.

More recently, we have a less benign version of this basic story — a black man just going about his daily business, only to have stupid white people decide they need to overreact in a way that has the potential to endanger the black man’s safety. Two employees at a yogurt shop in Seattle called the police to ask them to come eject a black man from their yogurt shop. He made the two employees “uncomfortable.” He had been there for about a half an hour.

He was there because he is a court appointed visitation supervisor who was in the store with a woman and her son, supervising their visitation. They’re both white. The employees who were “uncomfortable” apparently did not know that, but they did not bother to try to find out. So a black man sitting a a table is so discomfiting that you cannot even approach him and ask why he is there? Really? Really?

But the piece de resistance in stupidly assuming a black man must be a criminal comes in the now notorious case of the cop who shot the black security guard while responding to a report of shots fired at a bar. The lawyer who has filed suit on behalf of his surviving family asserts that he was wearing a cap bearing the word, “Security,” across the front. When the police arrived, he was holding another man on the floor, pointing his gun into the man’s back. Others in the bar yelled that he was a security guard.

The cop shot him anyway.

So, a man with a cap that says, “Security,” is holding another man down and pointing a gun at him. He apparently did not run when the cop showed up. Bystanders said he was a security guard. But he was black.

So the cop shot him.

Five people suffered gun shot wounds in the incident. The security guard is the only one who died.

Nothing at all satisfying about this incident.

This is obscene. We can call this the Tamir Rice Rule. Rice, you will recall, was the twelve year old boy who died from a police gun shot when he made the fatal mistake of playing with a gun in a park. Apologists pointed out quickly that the gun did not have the orange cap on it that would have indicated that it was a toy gun, which is entirely irrelevant. He was not shooting at anyone. Having a gun in a park is potentially a problem that might justify a police response, but the police should only shoot at anyone if they need to do so in order to prevent the person they are shooting at from harming someone else. There is no suggestion that young Rice was threatening any harm to anyone. We know he was not shooting at anyone because he was holding a toy gun, which, by definition, was not capable of firing at all. That the police could not necessarily tell is irrelevant. They could tell he was not shooting at anyone. But they could tell he was a black male, so they shot first and asked questions later.

There is no excuse for this stupidity. White people, just stop it.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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